Thursday, July 28, 2011

Refuge in the storm

The world has changed since the onset of the Great Recession of 2007-to-Infinity. Yes, I know the government economists say the recession was over in the summer of 2009. But that’s their narrowly-defined set of rules to classify slumps, bubbles, recessions, Black Fridays, and crises. They declare that unemployment stands at 9.2 percent, but that figure only includes those covered by miniscule unemployment compensation payments, not the millions of men and women who termed out, never qualified, are military veterans, are returning to the workforce, or have recently graduated from university or high school.

The real unemployment rate is between 18 and 27 percent. That means you and/or one of your family members and many of your friends are unemployed—and scared. People over 45 years of age have been unemployed longer, and make up the greater part of the pool of potential labor.

This means that people have lost their homes and vehicles, have moved in with relatives, and disposed of beloved pets because they can’t keep them any longer. It means that they’ve given or sold their heirlooms and heritage. They’ve moved from the place they called home, to an unfamiliar place that gives no sense of refuge or rest from the fray.

What economists don’t say, because it would create a crisis of “consumer confidence” (you are encouraged to laugh derisively here), is that we passed out of a recession, and into a de-pression. The economics we knew have gone away, and will not return. Ever. I heard one economist say that unemployment cannot (not just won’t—cannot) return to its sick levels of 2007, until 2023. Who can last that long? No one! Better stake out your appliance carton under the bridge, right?  Or stop wasting time on the search for a job that doesn’t exist, and start making your own work—which is what I’ve done.

With all the pain, loss, anger and greed in this world storming around us like a Category Five hurricane, it’s easy to be discouraged, become sick with frustration, and lose sight of our refuge and secure, quiet place.  

But somewhere over the roar of the storm winds and thunder, while we’re drowning in our finances and trauma, we hear sometimes as a whisper and sometimes as a triumphant shout, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ Jesus said. ‘Take courage. I AM here!’ Matthew 14:27 NLT. Or, colloquially, “You've got the I AM—here—right now, so there's no reason to be afraid. The I AM has it handled.”

I AM. God’s personal name. I AM loving, compassionate, merciful, forgiving. I AM here. I AM the bread of life. I AM the resurrection and the life. I AM the good shepherd. I AM WHO I AM.

What is left but to submit to the One who exists, who orders, who creates, who heals, who restores. The One who offers to take our burdens upon himself and give us rest. In him all the time is the sabbath rest that makes us sigh with deepest satisfaction, “Ah, this is the life.”

Ah, surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me—hound me, stalk me—all the days of my life, and my home will be in the heart of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6, my version.


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